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Relationship Status: Married and Dating

The night before last I babysat my brand-new granddaughter for the first time. What a treat. A whole evening to snuggle her, all to myself.

Just last week my daughter rolled her eyes at me and said, “Mom, why are you so into her?”

Oh please. (People warned me it would be love at first sight, but you really don’t know till you experience it just how hard and how quickly a grandchild can grab your heart.)

But I digress.

Speaking of heart-grabbing, though, the REASON I got to babysit Willa was that Heather and Jacob were going out on their FIRST DATE. Well, obviously, not their FIRST first date.  What I mean is, their first date post-baby (three weeks).  I joked with them on their way out the door, “You’re probably going to sit across the table from each other and wonder what you talked about before you had a baby.”

I was so glad they did that, though. Hats off to them. I’m glad they’ve picked up on the important truth that DATING YOUR SPOUSE IS SO IMPORTANT, whether your kids are newborns, teenagers, or adults.

Where do we find time?  We MAKE time. My life is as crazy as yours is. Really, most people’s lives are, aren’t they? A whirlwind of work, appointments, kids and their activities, household chores and responsibilities—not to mention church and community volunteering, time with friends and extended family,  and more!

But come on, folks, there are NO EXCUSES.

Romance (and all intimacy, really) starts with simply connecting relationally. It’s something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. It won’t just happen (or stay hot) on its own. You’ve got to work at it.

I totally agree with what I recently read from relationship expert Michelle Weiner-Davis, who cites kids as being a major reason for romantic disconnect in a marriage. “As a culture, we have become very child-focused and parents feel like they need to spend all their free time with their kids,” she explains, “but parents should spend time with one another for their kids. If they don’t spend time with one another, they’re not bonding or building [on their] friendship.”

Michelle says that, as a practicing marriage counselor, she is often able to cut to the root of the problem in the couples she counsels by asking one simple question: “When was the last time you went on a date?”

Now, let me point out that a “date” is not going to your kids’ soccer game together, attending church together, doing your yard work at the same time, or lying in bed watching TV. A date is doing something you both enjoy together, without any distractions, that allows you the opportunity to reconnect with each other and re-affirm what drew you together in the first place.

Doug and I are coming up on our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. When I tell people that (for example, it came up at the doctor’s office just yesterday), I always get comments. “Wow, you don’t hear that much these days.” Or “Good for you; that’s amazing.”

I don’t know that it’s so amazing; I wish it were the status quo! But while Doug and I certainly haven’t done everything right along the way, there is one thing we’ve prioritized that I think has been a consistent source of relational “glue” in our relationship. (I call it glue because it helps us stick together. 🙂 )

We have always made time to get out by ourselves, even when our five kids were small and we were struggling to make ends meet on a single income. They may have been cheap dates during some of those years, but we figured out how to make it work. And at least once a year, we’ve gone away together, just the two of us. We leaned on Grandma and Grandpa. We traded babysitting with friends. And when the older kids were old enough to watch the younger kids, we left them alone and prayed they wouldn’t kill each other. (Just kidding.)

Do you need creative ideas?  Go get an ice cream cone and go for a walk on the waterfront (we can do that in our town). Dinner and a movie (you should definitely include the dinner part because if it’s just a movie you won’t talk). A hike. A ball game. A concert. A museum or art gallery. A car race or sports event.  You know yourselves and what you like (and what each other likes).

Doug and me at a baseball game last weekend

The activity is not as important as the time spent together alone, applying a little relational glue.  It will help you maintain your identity as a couple, not two individuals living in the same house and rushing madly through life at the same time, with the same scenery, but never connecting in a meaningful way.

I think our families, our communities, and the next generation as a whole would be a whole lot better off if more of us paid attention to our coupleness.  I can’t fix the world, but I can work on me, and so can you.

So, when’s the last time YOU dated YOUR spouse?  If it’s been a while, will you schedule it into your calendar and make it happen? And if you and your spouse are regular daters, please share your best ideas with the rest of us.

What’s your favorite date with your spouse?

The Payoff of Perseverance

 

Some things just take time.

A strong marriage takes time. Losing weight takes time. Cultivating a friendship takes time. Building wealth (or getting out of debt) takes time. Training children takes time. Getting an education. Growing a garden.

Getting the picture?

Unfortunately, many of us sacrifice too quickly what could be really great investments in our future because they just, well, take too much time (or effort).

I’m thinking about the husband or wife who bails on a spouse because it’s “not good,” at least, not now. The person who spends his savings, or who throws in the towel and declares bankruptcy because discipline takes too much time (and effort).

Dumping a friend.

Leaving a church.

Quitting a job.

Dropping out of school.

 

Obviously there can be legitimate reasons for many of these. That’s not my point. My point is:

What are we doing to cultivate patience and discipline so we can get the really great pay-off that comes from perseverance?

What are we doing, one step at a time, to achieve our higher goals?

I wanted to lose a few pounds and it seemed SO OVERWHELMING, especially when all the reliable sources I was reading were telling me the only good way to do it was the old-fashioned and slightly tedious way: counting calories (ugh!).  So I found something to help me be disciplined and work toward my goal (I used Every Day Health’s Food and Fitness Journal).  I lost 12 pounds in eight weeks.

I wanted to increase my running distance and it seemed SO OVERWHELMING, so I just started noting the trees along the path in the park where I run.  This time I’ll run to that tree.  Next time I run to the next tree. The next time I’ll shoot for the next tree, or that fence up ahead, or the pond on the other side of the grove.  Now I’m running way further than I used to and I’m still increasing my stamina.

What’s your seemingly overwhelming circumstance?  Is it your marriage? Your finances? An education? A new career? Here are some ideas for getting off the starting blocks and into the race:

1. Start with an articulated goal.

2. Identify steps or strategies to accomplish it (or find a tool that can help you, like the calorie counting tool on Every Day Health or Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball plan or a savings plan on Mint.com.

3. Take one step at a time.

4. Celebrate small victories.

5. Don’t give up if you stumble. Pick yourself up and keep going.

6. Tell others what you’re doing. Tell YOURSELF what you’re doing. Say it out loud.

7. Follow through. Finish strong. You can do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Successful people don’t necessarily have better circumstances than others. Nor are they, generally speaking, particularly more lucky than others. More often than not, they’ve been learning the discipline of patience and endurance. Because of it, they’re experiencing the payoff of perseverance.

You know the old adage: How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope … (Romans 5:3-4)